Little Woodham 17th Century Re-enactment Village

“Little Woodham” Gosport’s 17 C Re-enactment Village”,

Little Woodham won a pioneering award in 1984 for its imaginative, fresh approach to history. The idea of showing how the 1642 Civil War had affected the lives of local people came from a couple of “English Civil War Society” enthusiasts, Stuart Peachy and Dave Brown. Near Grange Farm, Rowner, they created the imaginary hamlet of “Little Woodham” around 3 timber-framed WATTLE & DAUB huts. More “Civil War” experts came to act out the Armed Bands’ impact on the villagers. Visitors loved it, and the event won its 1984 Heritage award.

They persuaded Keith Hallum & Gosport Borough Council to fund and run the delightful Project.! Dozens of local schools enrolled, then coach loads of excited children came to the leafy site to absorb the sights and sounds of “ 1642 Little Woodham” at the outbreak of a long Civil War between Charles 1’s Royalist Army and Parliament’s Trained Bands.

For over 20 years “Little Woodham” has been manned by more and more locally trained Volunteers. In 1984 the St Vincent Adult Centre Head, Wendy Thorpe laid on “ 1642 Training Sessions” for people to learn about 17th Century speech, manners, housing, food, metal & woodwork skills , plus musketry, gunnery, charcoal burning, etc! A team of ladies sewed dozens of 17th C gowns, caps and aprons, plus petticoats for children and mens’ uniforms, smocks & shirts etc. in the St Vincent School’s Needlework Rooms, in those days still available!

In October 1985, talks on “ 1642 Little Woodham” by Volunteers gave the St Vincent Local History Club one of its most lively meetings. 5000 children and 3000 adult visitors had each paid to spend 2 hours going round the “fantasy” in the first two weeks of hot July weather! Sheila M. described the costumed Volunteers, busy in their simple homes and craft workshops as alarming rumours spread. And bands of troops arrived practising musket fire nearby. Noisy gunners crowded the old Grey Goose Inn, and  you could hear the innkeeper’s wife scolding them and the  maids, or the oven – or the hens clucking around her dirt floor.

Authentic 17th C. smells drifted from woodsmoke and cooking, from soap-making and stale ale, and from the smelly sheep in the pen. There was even a Catalan Forge built of bricks, with hugh bellows fanning the charcoal to smelt more iron for everything from nails to cannon-balls.

Life in “LITTLE WOODHAM,” – Gosport’s 17th C. village (Part 2)

The hit of that 1985 meeting was Marion G.’s witty re-enactment of the well-dressed lady of 1642. Marion, a lively Gosport Volunteer, had also joined the “Civil War Society”, and been invited to a “Court Wedding” between two of its members. So there she stood facing our St Vincent History Club Members in her becoming yellow  wedding outfit. Then she calmly proceeded to undress herself in front of us all!

As she did so, she explained the function of each garment as she took it off– her cap, her snood, her kerchief, her apron, her sleeves, her skirt and her “busk”. Finally she stood before us in her voluminous, ankle-length white shift. “Under this” she explained mischievously “the well dressed ladies of 1642, rich and poor alike, wore nothing but shoes”.

Her practical suggestion that the St Vincent Adult Centre should be asked to provide a 17th Century Dress-making Class using authentic patterns to make clothes for the Volunteers was a great success.

by Mrs J Russell